It’s easy to tear a comic book apart, to call it a waste of time or mediocre. What’s worse is it is incredibly easy to dismiss a book without even reading it. There are some books that repulse from the cover art. Others seem repugnant from just the vague understanding of the plot. In the case of “FF”, I would say everything was to its detriment. Nothing seemed appealing from its very poppy art to its collection of superheroes. The worst part was that it was replacing a book I had grown to adore.
The trouble with any book that featured the Fantastic Four is that they arose out of a time when Reed Richards was an egotistical blow hard, Susan was a subservient mascot, and the other characters were flat caricatures. What suspense was there if you kinda thought Reed needed a swift kick to the nethers. This problem was later addressed but there was this lingering question, “What made this family interesting?” Answer? Nothing. However, through their long history, they had accrued a fantastic (pun intended) assortment of ancillary side cast. “FF” was formed by calling together all of these characters and amassing them under the team name Future Foundation.
This book was incredible. It had Dragon Man, Atlantians, Mole Kids, evil clone kids, robot kids who were slightly less evil than the clones. Do you recognize a theme? This is a kids’ book. Brilliant, this was when X-Men stopped having any teen or kids’ teams so to speak. These books had the adventure and adversity of a children’s story book and was able to step away from the family.
However, as with all good things in Marvel, nobody can stop the meddling. It was announced that there would be a Marvel Now! relaunch; the actual Fantastic Four would be launched into space and Scott Lang, She-Hulk, Medusa, and some pink haired girl in a Thing costume would be on the new roster. The only one that interested me was She-Hulk, the others were characters incapable of maintaining an ongoing series. Strike one.
The next surprise came when they announced the art direction. Now I personally don’t have anything against Mike Allred, but his association with “X-Statix” is quite the blemish. His pop-arty style seemed as out of place as if someone had tried to play Led Zeppelin on a children’s recorder, cool for the first couple bars but annoying once they dove into “Staircase from Heaven”. Strike two.
And what was it this team would be doing? Well from the sneak peak of the issue where Scott Lang played a series of pranks on Doctor Doom, I was less than enthused. This is fresh off the heels of “Children’s Crusade” where, SPOILER ALERT, Cassie Lang died, so admittedly I was in a rather cynical state of mind. But, strike three is strike three.
I had pretty much dismissed the book to this point without reading a single thought bubble. But I still had my doubts. So on a whim I picked up an issue a few weeks back. Guess what, it’s super awesome fantastic sauce. That art that I was so concerned with? Perfect, it makes for a whimsical feeling but there is a tragic undertone. The team roster that had not piqued my interest? Perfect set up, the new pink haired girl has to wrestle with the issues of being a spoiled pop-star trying to take the place of a beloved superhero. What of that plot that seemed to meander to nowhere? Don’t worry, all those auxiliary characters are there and they keep things compelling and very engaging. In fact the best part of this book is all the surprise visits from the best of The Fantastic Four’s entire history; from The Inhumans, to Doctor Doom, To Kang, to a guy I’m pretty sure is Atrocitous—though he’s supposed to be dead, or is he? I can never keep track. Trust me when I say this book has been supremely underrated.
What can we say about how it stacks up to other books? Since Mike Allred is dictating the aesthetic of the book, the feel is pretty similar to the bright colors and action packed fighting of “Invincible”. The story does seem quite a bit less substantial than “Invincible” but the book seems to be focusing more on inter-character relationships. Does it make the book less interesting? Not really, maybe a bit less suspenseful but I’m still toting the merits of the book regardless.